We arrived a few minutes before the museum opened. We made the courtyard look more like a zoo than a museum as the handful of chaperones tried to corral fifty 3rd graders who had just survived a jerky, nausea-inducing, 45 minute bus ride. The kids climbed on and over the benches, stuck their hands through the metal fence that cordoned off a statue garden, chased each other and slid down the railing of the stairs.
At exactly 10:00, the museum opened and well-dressed, softly spoken museum employees calmly walked out to meet the madness called third grade. They quietly introduced themselves, separated us into groups of 12 students with their chaperones, and guided us into the exquisite lobby. I'm not sure what our "docent's" (the fancy word for teacher guide) name was because she never spoke above a controlled whisper and I couldn't hear her over the initial din of our group. But she was lovely, sophisticated, well-spoken, and very good with children. She made a point of squinting at their name tag to call each child by name when they answered a question, laid down the museum rules in such a liltingly beautiful voice that the kids didn't even know they were being told what to do, and pretended not to notice how their dirty sneakers, jeans and graphic T's didn't exactly blend into the perfection of museum life.
Over the next hour, she guided us into several different galleries choosing one portrait out of each gallery to stop and muse over. She explained to us that the information card for each piece provided details such as when the piece was created, who created it and how. She told us each portrait tells a story and showed us how to look for the story in the background, the wardrobe, and the accessories. She defined "medium" as the tool the artist chose to create the piece and "palette" as the scheme of color. She also told us that every piece we saw was a masterpiece. It was one-of-a-kind, unique, and personally created by the artist. What made each portrait valuable was the fact that it was the original. No copies allowed on these museum walls. If we looked closely, but not too closely to set off the alarms, we could see individual brush strokes and cracks in the paint, indications that these paintings were truly original masterpieces.
It occurred to me that life is a self-portrait. We use the medium of imperfection and the palette of mistakes and create with our lives a masterpiece only a Daddy could love. But that Daddy, a real Creator, lovingly takes out His art supplies. He grabs His brush of grace and His palette of compassion, mercy and forgiveness and lovely transforms our rudimentary portrait into a masterpiece. He doesn't cover up all the cracks in our paint. Look closely. You can see his brush strokes, making every crack, every color choice, an original masterpiece.